Broker Jeffrey Kerr of Re/Max Unique in Toronto has put his lockdown time to good use – he has just finished writing the second edition of his book, Barrier Free Real Estate: Achieving Freedom At Home.
Kerr, who has been a Realtor for 21 years and specializes in helping clients buy and sell barrier-free, accessible houses and condominiums, shares his knowledge and expertise so other agents can help their clients, and clients can help themselves. Being armed with knowledge and knowing what to look for is half the battle, he says.
The book outlines everything from a chapter titled The Big Picture to the smallest details that help the search for an accessible home or condo go more smoothly. It also tells readers how to assess their current space to see if modifications can be made so they can age in place, or to find a home that can be modified to suit their needs now and in years to come, says Kerr. He obtained his real estate license in 1999, became a broker in 2007 and has his Senior Real Estate Specialist and Accredited Senior Agent designations. He is also a regular columnist for Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.
“Eighty-five per cent of Canadians over 55 want to age in place, staying in their homes longer,” he says. It was a trend occurring before the pandemic, but has jumped to the top of the list, making his book even more timely.
“The pandemic has given us new realities – physically distancing and self-isolating, and people will start to re-think their current and future living arrangements. Aging in place will become a very attractive option for many going forward.
“Once concerns around COVID-19 in long-term care homes (became an issue) lots of people began re-evaluating their future housing. People want a safe space to live and isolate,” he says.
Kerr’s 154-page book presents information in a thorough and logical manner, beginning with a forward by David Onley, lieutenant governor of Ontario from 2007 to 2014. Kerr met Onley on several occasions and reached out to request he write the forward. After seeing an early copy, Kerr says Onley got back to him immediately, praising the book and calling it “brilliant.”
It will be included in the Politics of Disability course that Onley teaches at the University of Toronto.
The book is the “single most important resource a disabled person can acquire before venturing into the often daunting world of finding accessible housing,” Onley says.
Chapters include what to look for (or include) in a kitchen and bathroom to make it accessible. “It’s like taking a tour of an accessible home,” Kerr says.
“The pandemic has demonstrated the value and importance of having a safe and comfortable home you can live, work and thrive in. This is especially true for the over six million Canadians who have a disability and for the 23 per cent of Canadians who will be over the age of 65 by the year 2030. If you or someone you know is included in one of these categories, then this book is written for you,” Kerr says in the book.
Another chapter discusses the importance of the occupational therapist, who is an invaluable source for what the buyer’s needs are now and what they may be in five to 10 years in order for it to be their forever home.
Kerr also talks about The Accessibility Design Program by The Daniels Corporation. “They’re way ahead of the curve with accessible condos.”
His clients, who bought preconstruction in 2017, are slated for occupancy late this year and into 2021. Once people can see what the suites look like (they’re not institutional at all) there’s bound to be an uptick in interest, he says.
Downsizers who are thinking of moving into a condo can be thoughtful about what they’re buying now so they won’t have to move to find accessible accommodation.
The book also includes details about the Canadian Home Builders’ Association’s Home Modification Council, which it says supports many aspects of aging in place for Canada’s seniors and persons with disabilities and their caregivers. The council’s offerings include home modification training for renovators.
Kerr knew his first book, published in 2016, needed to be updated, but he could never find the time. The COVID-19 lockdown provided the perfect opportunity.
Barrier Free Real Estate: Achieving Freedom At Home is an invaluable resource for agents, as well as a great client gift. Kerr is also an invaluable resource for agents. He welcomes calls for advice and information. Visit his website or call him at 416-424-2222.
Connie Adair is a contributing writer for REM.